Cinco de Mayo is here again on Saturday. And with it, the obligatory reminder that it is not Mexican Independence Day but the commemoration of the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The occasion isn’t a big deal in Mexico, but it has come to be a day of revelry in the United States for Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and everyone else who wants an excuse to party.
L.A. has no shortage of places to celebrate Mexican cuisine and culture. From street vendors to old-school standbys to modern eateries, we've got it all. And if you want a dose of history along with your revelry, head to Olvera Street — just be prepared for swarms of tourists.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all L.A. has to offer, but here are some fun, festive and tasty places to eat, drink and be merry on Cinco de Mayo this year.
Open since 1956, this old-school, red-boothed Mexican restaurant continues to serve Vega family recipes to everyone from local families to celebrities. The sizable menu includes a lobster quesadilla, burritos and classic combo plates. For Cinco de Mayo, Casa Vega offers even more festive decor and furnishings plus drink specials. A mariachi band will play in the evening.
Drink specials include $7 Casa Vega margaritas made with founder Rafael Vega’s classic recipe. The restaurant also will serve a Pink Señorita cocktail just for Cinco de Mayo, made with Patron Silver, fresh grapefruit juice and cranberry juice, garnished with fresh mint.
The celebration goes all day and night from 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
13301 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 788-4868, casavega.com.
This organic, non-GMO Mexican restaurant is christening its new Silver Lake location with its first Cinco de Mayo fiesta. As an ode to the Mexican flag, you can get festive with a red, green and white Banderita shot trio of tequila, lime and house-made sangrita ($8).
Other drink specials include mix-and-match margaritas and palomas made with Maestro Dobel Silver Tequila ($9) or Mestizo Joven Mezcal ($10); house-made Rumchata ($10); sangria pitchers ($20); and boilermakers with Tecate and tequila or mezcal ($8).
For food to soak up some of that alcohol, Mi Corazon has something for everyone, from tacos to classic entrees like fajitas and mole with rice and beans. Several dishes are vegetarian or vegan and all the beef is grass-fed.
Mi Corazon will be open 10 a.m. to midnight on Cinco de Mayo.
2609 Hyperion Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 522-3320, mi-corazon.net.
The modern Mexican restaurant from Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken is an L.A. standard. Though the original Santa Monica location is no more, you can still find the “Too Hot Tamales”’ tasty fare with flair in a few other locations.
Their downtown L.A. outpost (open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays) is serving several Cinco de Mayo specials that are easy on the wallet. Strawberry or lime margaritas will be $5. Several types of tacos will be $3.50 — alambre (hanger steak), carnitas, chicken panuchos, grilled fish, braised brisket, sweet potato with black bean and more. A few “bites” will also be $5 — the Sonoran brisket mini torta, seafood campechana, queso fundido and soyrizo, veggie mulitas and albondigas with Impossible meat.
The pair's newest expansion, in the 1919 Cafe at the Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens, will celebrate by offering churro tots for dessert (not normally available at this location) plus tequila cocktails at the 1919 bar. A ticket to the Huntington isn’t required to dine at the cafe, but you can still enjoy some of the lush scenery from the patio. The cafe is open 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and the bar is open until 6 p.m.
445 S. Figueroa St., downtown, (213) 486-5171; 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, (626) 405-2100. bordergrill.com.
Mariscos El Bigoton
It’s hard to miss this East L.A. food truck emblazoned with Yosemite Sam — a nod to the bigoton (big mustache) in its name. But some of the seafood dishes coming out of the truck are bigger than Sam’s ’stache. And, dare we say, much more Instagram-worthy.
Pull up a truckside stool and feast on one of the pastelasos, a hefty tower of seafood that’s (almost) too pretty to eat. The regular pastelaso ($20) has layers of fish ceviche, cooked shrimp, octopus, spicy marinated red aguachile and plenty of avocado with chiltepin black sauce. The pastelasos get better and pricier from there.
Equally eye-catching is the marispina ($20), a hollowed half pineapple filled with cooked shrimp, shrimp ceviche, chopped pineapple, aguachile, avocado and a special botanera sauce. Or try the mariscos estilo maleficio ($20-$25), a coconut filled with shrimp ceviche, cooked seafood, chopped coconut and cocktail juice.
If you want a smaller, cheaper option, try five hard-shell tacos for $8.50 — the arroz y camaron (rice and shrimp) is popular. Or go with soft-shell fish and shrimp tacos for $3 each.
You can wash it down with American and Mexican sodas.
Mariscos El Bigoton’s East L.A. truck is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Cinco de Mayo.
5458 Whittier Blvd., East L.A.; (323) 357-4269.
Guisados' tacos are regularly ranked among L.A.’s (and America’s) best and for good reason — they’re freaking delicious. It’s no wonder the Boyle Heights–based eatery that specializes in home-style braises (guisados) on thick handmade tortillas has expanded to Echo Park, downtown, West Hollywood and Burbank.
But the quality and freshness remain, since Guisados sticks to making its braises and tortillas fresh daily in Boyle Heights and transporting them to each location several times a day.
It’s hard to go wrong with the taco sampler or steak picado tacos. But on Cinco de Mayo Guisados serves up something extra special that pretty much demands to be sampled — carnitas tacos with fresh guacamole ($3.50). In true Guisados fashion, they make carnitas and guacamole fresh that day, send them to each location and have them available by lunchtime, while supplies last. It’s the only day Guisados makes guacamole, so get it while you can.
All locations will have their usual Saturday hours on Cinco de Mayo.
2100 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave., Boyle Heights, (323) 264-7201; 1261 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, (213) 250-7600; 541 S. Spring St., downtown, (213) 627-7656; 8935 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 777-0310; 312 N. San Fernando Blvd., Burbank, (818) 238-9806. guisados.co.
Taqueria Los Anaya
While this Mid-City spot doesn’t have any Cinco de Mayo food and drink specials, it always looks like a party in here. Bright yellow walls, papel picado (colorful Mexican paper banners) and piñatas hanging from the ceiling greet you.
Three brothers own the place — Juan, Manuel and Gerardo Anaya — and are actively involved in the food and service.
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Some of their most popular dishes are the carne asada and chicken mole, also available in tacos or burritos. Enchiladas, sopes, tortas, soups and salads round out the menu. If you want to end on a sweet note, they have Mexican churros and homemade guava flan.
Refreshing drinks include horchata and seasonal melon aguas frescas; they don’t have a liquor license. You can get the chicken or shrimp tequila pasta for a little kick, but Manuel makes sure to mention they can’t accommodate sly diners’ requests for pasta with the tequila “on the side.”
They’re open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Cinco de Mayo.
4651 W. Adams Blvd., West Adams; (323) 731-4070, taquerialosanaya.com.